Monday, December 05, 2005

Waiting for Saint Nicholas

Footwear left to right: Bede, Brad, Lucia, Alkelda (as usual, Ulric has too much dignity for such an affair)
We have put out our shoes and boots by the fireplace and hope for good things from Saint Nicholas, whose Feast Day is December 6. When I was a child, Saint Nicholas came first on his Feast Day to put presents in my shoe, and then stood in for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve to put presents in my stocking. In the early years, I did receive lumps of coal from time to time, in addition to an orange and a present. Yes, I was a difficult child, but I was also whip-smart: my father was a coal-miner, and I figured he put the lump of coal in my shoe for a joke. Sometimes I received a switch in my stocking along with the presents. Again, I suspected my parents of sneaking it in.* It wasn't that I believed someone actually came down a chimney (or on horse, as the historical St. Nicholas would have traveled), but I had a sense of wonder and gratitude that someone was rooting for me. Most of my relatives assure me now that they doted upon me, and I believe them, but many of my memories involve making people cross without understanding what I had done to upset them. St. Nicholas was someone who believed in my goodness.

It was only many years later that I realized the person who was rooting for me the whole time was my Grandma Orpha. Of my three grandmothers, Grandma Orpha was the one who was actually strict with me. However, she was the one who scolded my mother for putting the switch in my stocking. Grandma was not materialistic, but she paid attention to my various worldly wishes. As a teenager, I wanted a black leather skirt. I envisioned something small and scandalous, but when I opened my Christmas package, I found a full-length, wide-sweeping leather skirt that I could actually wear to school. In that same era, I wanted a crystal necklace akin to the one my idol, Joan Jett, wore. It showed up in my stocking.

I don't like to accumulate possessions, but I do like presents. I like to give and I like to receive. There is something thrilling about quietly noting what someone desires or needs, and finding some way of granting those wishes. While it is nice to have a little money to spend upon gifts,especially for the raw materials one needs to create something lovely, it is not necessary. (Yes, Brad the Gorilla, I know you absolutely positively NEED a fancy new sportscar, but you will have to make do with a knitted hat.)

Happy St. Nicholas Day! Place your wishes in the comments section. For what do you long that money can't buy?

*My parents are actually quite loving and generous. I think the stress of having a wild and wooly child probably took its toll in various forms of comic relief such as the ones I mentioned. Can you tell that I'm slightly more sympathetic now that I have a child of my own?!

9 comments:

Brad the Gorilla said...

I want to find car-keys in my boot (the one I borrowed from Lucia.) I want a new sportscar! Why can't I wish for things that money can buy? Really, though, if I have to forgo the material pleasures of life, I suppose this is what I would ask for:

1)All apes saved from extinction.
2)All the other species saved from extinction (with the possible exception of mosquitos, as I fail to see how their contribution to the food cycle trumps their nasty penchant for distributing malaria)
3)More fan-mail.

galetea said...

Nothing but inspiration. Can that fit in my shoe?

Melangell said...

Oh, how I wish I could talk to your Grandma Orpha. That is what I wish for that money cannot buy - to be as wonderful and supportive a mother/grandmother as your Grandma Orpha.

Lone Star Ma said...

Aren't we all more understanding of our parents now...sigh.

Was your father really a coal miner? That is a pretty fascinating profession. In Takoma Park?

I wish for more time with my children...

I wish for them to stay safe and healthy and not get bird flu, ever...

Lone Star Ma said...

I love that you do St. Nicholas Day! We need to start celebrating that! But we have company tonight so maybe next year...

Lesa said...

Something I long for that money cannot buy is the ability to read any language I choose. That would make me do a snoopy happy dance.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Lesa--
My mom was just telling me about a version of Rosetta Stone (or something akin to it) that is free online with a library card to the library system in her area. I haven't done the research yet, but I'd like to see if we have something like that in our part of the country. It wouldn't be instantaneous immersion, but it might be the next best thing!

Galetea--
Of course inspiration can fit into your shoe. That is where you find the sole. Ouch, I could not, simply could not resist. But truly, if faith can be as small as a mustard-seed, then surely inspiration could be as small as a peppercorn. Okay, I have no idea where this metaphor could go, so I'll stop now. Happy St. Nicholas Day. Please share the inspiration you receive.

Lone Star Ma-- My father was a coal-miner in MacDowell County, West Virginia. Are you familiar with the book Rocket Boys, upon which the film "October Sky" was based? Same county!

Melangell--I wish I could talk to Grandma Orpha, too. Rather, I wish I could talk to her and hear her voice, and have it not be a hallucination or anything that would freak me out.

Brad-- We're working on all three wishes.

Lone Star Ma said...

So was that pre-you or when you were little? I am unfamiliar with book and movie...will have to check it out!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Lone Star Ma--
That was both pre-me and when I was little. My parents got married, and I showed up 9 months later (plus a couple of weeks, since all of us were late babies).

The book Rocket Boys and the sequels are quite good! They're by Homer Hickham, Jr. I would definitely recommend them for a young adult audience-- actively, that is. I'm always on the lookout for good non-fiction for young adults.